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[IP] Diabetes and Jail time
This was an article I read in our newspaper this morning. I found it very
interesting. Several years ago we had a similar incident with a
student/parent in our school district. The student also had D.
Ferron Mother Jailed, Fined for Daughter's Truancy
Tuesday, May 23, 2000
BY KATHERINE KAPOS
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
An Emery County mother of five may be the first Utahn charged with
"educational neglect" under a one-year-old state law that holds parents
responsible when their children miss too much school.
Valerie D. Thompson of Ferron said she was fined $500 and jailed for two
days after her 14-year-old daughter missed an excessive number of school
days. Her husband Mark was not charged in the case.
Thompson said the absences were due to illness. Her daughter Elise, an
eighth-grade student at San Rafael Junior High in Ferron, suffers from a
severe form of diabetes and must wear an insulin pump.
Thompson said the disease causes her daughter to get sick easily and
that she is often hospitalized for routine illnesses such as the flu and
Thompson said she provided the school with letters from doctors
explaining her daughter's long absences, but the school took action after
she failed to call in daily to get the absences cleared.
She claims she asked school officials to provide a tutor for days when
her daughter stayed home.
"They turned me down, threw me in jail and now I'm angry," said
Thompson, who said she spent 48 hours in the Carbon County Jail in February.
Emery School District Superintendent Kirk Sitterund defended the
school's action, saying the principal and teachers tried numerous times to
make reasonable accommodations for Thompson and her daughter.
"But we were unable to resolve the issue of excessive absences and we
referred the matter to juvenile court," he said. Sitterund would not
disclose the number of absences or details about the case, saying that would
intrude on the Thompsons' privacy.
Carol Lear, a legal specialist for the Utah State Office of Education,
said she was unaware of other parents prosecuted under the law. She said the
district probably did everything possible to work with the family.
"Districts don't want to get to this point," said Lear. "Only when
parents are uncooperative and resistant do the schools say 'We've got to do
Under Utah's excessive absence policy, implemented in 1999, an illness,
a death in the family and religious celebrations are legitimate reasons for
children to miss a few days of school. It also is OK to occasionally pull
kids out of school for family vacations, as long as a school principal is
But under most school district policies, it's not OK for kids to miss
school to baby-sit younger siblings, to ski or engage in other recreational
activities or for vague reasons usually lumped under the simple explanation
that the child was "needed at home."
Rack up too many of these "unexcused" absences and the law allows
districts to start issuing citations, with corresponding fines.
The law requires districts to inform parents when registering children
for the coming school year of Utah's compulsory education law and penalties
for violating it. The law requires parents to send children between the ages
of 6 and 18 to a public or private school or get approval from the local
district to teach them at home. Children must attend 180 days of school a
Educators estimate that on any day, 70,000 students are absent from Utah
After a student has two unexcused absences in a six-week period, schools
typically notify parents there is a problem. If a student has four
additional unexcused absences in the next six-week period, parents are asked
to come to the school for a conference.
At the seventh unexcused absence, parents may be cited.
Lear said at any time during the process parents can meet with school
officials, try to work out the problem and get fines waived.
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